If you have tried to get a COVID-19 test at one of the many free COVID testing sites in the area, like I did Monday, there’s a sense of sheer panic in East Boston and surrounding communities. Drive-thru testing sites on Monday had lines of cars stretched for blocks and the wait time to get what has been dubbed the ‘brain tickle’ COVID test was nearly two hours.
This could mean one of two things–there are far more residents coming down with COVID-19 symptoms and want to know for sure if they’ve contracted the heinous disease, or residents are heeding the call of Mayor Martin Walsh and to get tested in order to stop the spread.
The philosophy of Walsh’s administration is now, ‘the more people who know they have COVID, the more we can isolate the sick from the healthy’.
Either way, it has become very nerve wracking for those of us living in what the state has designated ‘red zones’, which sounds more like the set of a post apocalyptic horror flick.
In order to ensure more people get tested, Walsh said Tuesday the city has continued to add free testing resources, especially in neighborhoods with higher case rates like Eastie.
The EBNHC announced on Friday that its free popup mobile testing site in Central Square will remain open through at least November 14. The hours there will be Tuesday-Friday 1:00 -5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Residents must call to pre-register at 617-568-4500.
“This week, we have free testing regardless of symptoms at Central Square Park in East Boston and Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan,” said Walsh of the city’s targeted plan to get more residents tested in city hot spots. “Also, this Tuesday and Friday we have a free site at New Hope Baptist Church on River St. in Hyde Park.”
Walsh noted that the City has passed the 20,000 case mark, or 2.9 percent of Boston’s population, a clear indicator of the reach of the virus and the work needed to prevent further spread.
Last week, Walsh unveiled the city’s “Get the Test, Boston” pledge, campaign, and social media took it. The new initiative is to encourage everyone to get tested regularly for COVID-19.
He discussed the importance of getting tested as part of keeping yourself and your family safe, and helping the City track the presence of the virus and respond effectively.
“The City is currently investing in more testing resources, more contact tracing capacity, and more ability to support people who need to quarantine,” said Walsh. “But, despite increased access, we’ve seen our daily testing numbers fall off in recent weeks.”
Walsh said that we need to get more people tested, and asked for everyone’s help.
“Reasons to get tested immediately include having COVID-like symptoms, having been exposed to someone with a confirmed case, having been part of a large gathering, or having recently traveled,” he said. “In addition the virus is spreading among people who don’t have symptoms who may not know they’ve been exposed. So we want everyone to be proactive and get tested if you are leaving your house for any reason.”
The Mayor said that he gets tested regularly and that it’s a quick and painless experience. He also called it an opportunity to arm yourself with knowledge and be part of our community’s defense against this virus.
“We will soon have stickers available at our mobile testing sites that say “I got the test” to help raise awareness and show there is no stigma to getting tested,” he said. “We also have a social media toolkit available and we’re asking everyone to promote the importance of getting tested throughout their networks.”
Walsh recognized that work hours can make it harder to find time to get tested, so he is asking employers to make it easier for workers to get tested.
“The “Get the Test, Boston” Pledge is a commitment that employers and individuals can support testing access,” said Walsh. “It keeps your workforce healthy and productive, it prevents an outbreak that could hurt business, and it’s a way to help our city avoid having to roll back reopening. The City of Boston is taking the Pledge and offering eligible City employees one paid hour every 14 days to get tested during work hours. Employees will receive regular compensation for their time spent testing, and will not be required to use sick or personal time for that hour.”
Other employers can fulfill the Pledge in ways that work for them and their industry.
“All you have to do is encourage your employees to get tested and provide them with information about how and where to get tested,” said Walsh. “You can also consider giving paid time off, or other forms of flexibility, for workers to get tested during work hours.”